By Kyle Harcott
Another drizzly, leaden-skied Vancouver night set the mood for what promised to be a doom-filled [early] evening. But you know what they say about the best-laid plans… In the days leading up to the gig, there was a lot of are-they-or-aren’t-they? about whether or not The Gates of Slumber would be playing, but I didn’t find out for sure ‘til I got to the venue that they didn’t make it through the border (and only after I bought a ticket, mind – it wasn’t announced anywhere else prior. I didn’t know for sure ‘til I got to the merch table and saw no TGOS memorabilia on it). It’s a convoluted story but apparently the band’s touring fill-in drummer (main drummer “Iron” Bob Fouts sat this tour out, taking care of some personal business at home) didn’t have a passport, so that pretty much monkeywrenched any prospect of TGOS entering the country, much to the chagrin of many a Vancouver metalhead (your humble narrator included).
But all was not lost – the night’s gloom quotient was amply fulfilled by promising local openers Funeral Circle. Word on Downer-rock Street is that these guys are a band to keep an eye on. They play it oldschool and slooooow, the way doom should be. To my ears, at first they came off like a junior version of Candlemass (w/shades of Pentagram) with molasses-slow crunchers like “The Hexenhammer” and “Legions Invictus”. But towards the end of their set, Funeral Circle also treated us all to some tasty NWOBHM styling as well, via their faithful cover of Witchfinder General’s “Burning A Sinner”, and their own uptempo “Fist of Satan”. New vocalist Revenant worked the crowd well, getting them to sing along with the chorus, “When I say ‘worship’, you say ‘SATAN’! WORSHIP! SATAN!” Plus, due to there being only two bands on the bill that night, Funeral Circle even got to come back on for an encore with their signature track “Corpus of Dark Sorcery”. I look forward to seeing them live again and hearing their full-length when it gets released later this year.
So Slough Feg got underway early, by about 9:45, something to do with the Red Room turning back into a dance club at 11PM sharp. But even an early curfew couldn’t put a damper on their twin-guitarmony attack. The inveterate Slough Feg are one of those bands that pulls it off so well live that they’re able to sound identical to what they do on tape, which I found pretty impressive considering how ornate their songs can get. Personally, I was there to hear songs from their latest, Ape Uprising!, and they did not disappoint, throwing the excellent “Simian Manifesto” into their set early on. But as they’re touring for their 20th anniversary, the band threw loads of gems into their set. It was great to hear older tracks like “Tiger! Tiger!”, “The Final Gambit” and “Hiberno-Latin Invasion” live. And seeing Mike Scalzi and Angelo Tringali work their guitar magic, playing off each other is especially jaw-dropping – they recall the classic Gorham/Robertson harmony work in Thin Lizzy. Scalzi’s a great frontman in his own right, his trademark rasp in fine form as he kept the small crowd rapt. It’s a shame more people didn’t turn up for a one-off show like this because Slough Feg put on a top-notch show, and it’s not like they’re in our neck of the woods every day – but perhaps their eclectic brand of classic heavy metal is an acquired taste. Don’t get me wrong, the crowd that was there was way into it; they just weren’t all that many. It’s alright though, they made up for it by making that much more noise.
While The Gates of Slumber were definitely the draw on the bill for me, I was not disappointed in the least with what I got to see this night: a great up-and-comer in Funeral Circle, and the veteran players in Slough Feg bringing their A-game. Would love to see some more off-the-beaten-path shows like this coming to Vancouver, hopefully promoter Stygian Tomb is around for a while to bring more bills like this to life.
And here’s hoping that The Gates of Slumber make it back up this way eventually, too!